Who would have thought that a near-abandoned castle in the middle of a swamp would be the best night sleep I’ve gotten, 11 days into this trip? I slept like a baby, with my own bed and even a pillow to comfort me! It’s a bright blue sky morning here in Cabarete and for the first time in 11 days, the only sound I woke up to this morning was the birds chirping outside our private castle balcony. We arrived to Cabarete yesterday, and after a quick lunch most of the students ran directly into the Caribbean sea, washing off a weeks worth of grime. We really are staying in a castle. It is a hostel about a 15 min. walk from the main drag that is built to look like a castle. It’s the slow season, so we are literally the only guests staying in this giant place in the swamp. We decided against going dancing last night and the students just vegged in front of the giant flat screen T.V.
Coming from Tres Ceibas, this transition is abrupt. Even though we were only there for six nights, that tiny rural village had really become our home.
Being welcomed into a foreign family and the transformation that takes place in that process continues to top my most important and inspiring life lessons. I believe there truly is something forged deep in our human nature to care for and learn from each other, regardless of race, socio-economic status or any of the go-to dividing factors of our increasingly global community. This experience, although in a new location, provided that same sense of home through the families that have given their time to care for me all over the world. I am awed and extremely grateful for the life I have chosen to lead. This home-stay was particularly rousing because I was also able to watch these eight students go through this experience for the first time. It was exciting every day to hear the stories of all the awkward and hilarious things that happened in their home-stays. Once again, I must commend their “go for it” spirit. They took on the extremely challenging role of throwing themselves into a completely unfamiliar environment with poise and maturity. I keep saying that this group (the entire 11th
grade class) should have a scientific study done on them. In stark contrast
to the stereotypical 17 year old American high school group, they work together and care for each other like a loving family. It’s been really cool to watch.
My time in the village has won several superlatives for every-day life adventures:
1. Worst night sleep, ever.
2. Stinkiest and most disgusting outhouse
3. Best outdoor stream bathing
Most of our time in the village was spent hanging out around what one of the students affectionately called the “commons.” It was where we ate every meal together, had meetings and romped with children. We started early most days with eggs and hot dog buns under the palm roof hut that we shared our meals in. After breakfast, we did a number of projects including filling the ravines in the roads with stones and dirt, which have been washed away throughout the rainy season, painting the inside of a house from bright yellow to bright blue and visiting the two schools in the community. Most afternoons were too hot to do anything but find some shade and read, play dominoes or pet the flea-ridden dogs with our feet. Once we
walked an hour and a half to the ocean and the locals who joined us all came back with crabs, which they kept in a bucket back in the village for the remainder of our time there. Another day we walked a different direction to the river where we spent hours lounging in the cool clear water and on a giant smooth piece of driftwood. The other two leaders and I spent a fair bit of time “perching.” Our home was located in the commons, but on the hill above the other buildings where we could see everything that was happening. We laughed away many hours from our plastic chairs watching the students and the villagers move in and around together on the farm. Life moved slowly, and I liked it.
There was one family that did all of the cooking and took care of the logistics of our stay. The three matriarchs, Margarita (the grandma), Francia (the mother) and Liliana (the daughter , 25 and mother of three) were constantly busy cooking, cleaning and caring for the two frequently screaming babies just beginning to walk in the dirt floors around their feet. They are strong, talented
and inspiring women. Tres Ceibas is one of the most economically poor towns in the Dominican Republic and these families work hard and struggle to overcome the hardships they have been dealt. Despite having near to no material wealth, they are some of the most generous and kind people I have ever encountered. On our final night there, I spent some time alone with just Francia, Liliana and Liliany (14 mth old) and confessed that they felt equal to my own mother, sister and niece. When we left yesterday, I had to run up the hill to find Francia who was hiding in her room crying because she didn’t want to say goodbye. They are my Domincana family and I really hope to see them again.
I have to end this entry because I am taking forever and one of the students needs to see if her mother has emailed her back. I could go on and on about how powerful this experience has been, but I could never really capture it in words. If anyone is interested in supporting the foundation that brought us to that village or for any more information on what they are
doing, the website is www.mariposadrfoundation.org
We have 5 more days in the D.R before we return to Vermont and I am so excited to see what adventures arise.
Tot: 0.062s; Tpl: 0.017s; cc: 9; qc: 52; dbt: 0.0118s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb